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Newcastle United takeover Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing – Important takes from the action

2 weeks ago
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The Newcastle United takeover CAT (Competition Appeal Tribunal) jurisdiction hearing went ahead at 10.30am on Wednesday (29 September 2021).

In the anti-competition action, Mike Ashley is demanding the Premier League reconsider the Newcastle United takeover deal, with in addition the NUFC owner also seeking damages, interest and costs due to the Saudi takeover not happening in 2020.

Wednesday’s hearing was never going to be the dam finally breaking and NUFC fans getting a much-awaited Newcastle United takeover.

The day instead was, on the one hand simply about the opposing sides arguing about whether this anti-competition case can go ahead, plus seeing whether any other information of interest would be made public.

Newcastle United fans could watch a livestream of the action as it happened, but anybody hoping for 90 minutes of entertainment were left disappointed, instead it was more akin to a one day cricket match, a war of attrition with little of note happening, with occasional moments of ‘excitement’ to get you off your seat.

Much of the day was predictably spent with the legal representatives talking a lot but saying little, so below I will try to bring you the MOTD style highlights, the key points of interest (though not all in the order they came to light yesterday).

The livestream showed you six people. The three man CAT (Competition Appeal Tribunal) panel hearing the case, then representing Mike Ashley through his holding company St James’ Holdings’ Ltd (SJHL) was Daniel Jowell QC, whilst Adam Lewis QC was speaking for the Premier League. Nick De Marco QC was also there but spoke little, he was there representing the football club (Newcastle United) and is heading up Ashley’s / NUFC’s arbitration case. Which is separate but obviously very much has connections to this anti-competition case.

One of the big moments of interest came early in the match / day, when the Premier League appealed for the case to be thrown out, claiming that it “goes over the same ground” as the arbitration case. The Premier League QC revealing that the arbitration case is scheduled to start on Monday 3 January 2022 and is expected to last little over a week.

Mike Ashley’s QC Daniel Jowell claimed both BeIN Sports and other Premier League clubs had lobbied the Premier League against the Saudi Newcastle United takeover, which then led to an “unfair application of the rules” and the takeover ending up not going ahead.

Ashley’s QC also claimed that at one point, the Premier League had threatened to throw Newcastle United out of the competition (the Premier League), though he gave no details of when this was and what in connection with in particular, during the attempted Newcastle United takeover.

Mike Ashley is claiming damages and his QC claims Ashley’s losses have been “substantial and exceed £10m” in relation to what he would have banked from the sale to the Saudis, compared to what he might otherwise get from other buyers.

Ashley’s QC saying that there had been interest from other bidders since the Saudi deal broke down but indicated that this other interest was at a lower price than the Saudis were going to pay.

Ashley’s man adding that there was no guarantee that the Saudis would still be interested in a Newcastle United takeover if they are having to wait until 2022 at the earliest. Of even if the Saudis were still interested, no guarantee they would be willing to pay the same price.

The Premier League QC said that the Premier League owners and directors test is “sensible and appropriate”, as well as proportionate, in running their football competition.

Ashley QC said Premier League abused its dominant market position, affecting both competition on the pitch and economically for Newcastle United.

Ashley’s QC arguing that it is not bound by the Premier League rules of governance and has the right to bring the competition claim, even though of course Ashley also owns the club.

Ashley QC said that the Premier League should “come to its senses, reverse the decision.”

Parts of the hearing were heard in private and not on the livestream, at the request of the Premier League QC and agreed by the panel.

Judge wraps up hearing and says there will be a ruling to come.

The panel of three retired to consider their verdict, with SJHL asking for the case to advance with an administrative hearing in the New Year.

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